Airlines’ latest moves are a sign that things could get worse.
THE RECENT incident in which United Airlines had a passenger forcibly removed from a flight reminds us once again that airlines view their passengers not as people, but as meat in a seat.
This incident is only the latest in a long trend of worsening customer service as a result of airline consolidation. More than 40,000 passengers nationwide were involuntarily bumped from their flights in 2016. Complaints are skyrocketing, passengers are getting charged for everything under the sun, and the seat space for customers in coach is practically nonexistent. Left unchecked, the airlines treat customers like cattle. About 10 years ago, my family and I were delayed on a tarmac for nine hours without food or water.
The airlines are doing everything they can to brush the recent high-profile incidents of terrible service under the rug. And most people don’t know that they are actually working to persuade politicians in Washington to privatize the air traffic control system, which would give them greater control over the system.
It would allow them to make decisions about fees and taxes; about gates and slots, enabling them to further reduce competition by keeping out low-cost competitors; about system infrastructure investments; and about issues of customer service. What terrifies me is the loss of congressional oversight to ensure that the airlines act within reasonable bounds and treat passengers humanely.
Ultimately, the airlines need more oversight from our government, not to be left to govern themselves.
The writer is the founder of the airline consumer organization FlyersRights.org.
Come on, flying is really not that bad
I FOUND Christopher Muther’s front-page, above-the-fold commentary about the sorry state of air travel to be absurdly overwrought (“Airline’s apology won’t change sorry state of flying,” April 28). True, there have been some well-publicized mishaps. And yes, surely flying is sometimes stressful. But flying on an airplane is not really as bad as Muther makes it out to be.
My favorite sentence is, “There’s nothing more disheartening than getting through clogged security checkpoints only to see that there is no place to sit at your gate.” Really? Forget the obvious things that are more disheartening. I think this example ranks up there in the disheartening department as a getting a small splinter, maybe a flat tire, or finding out that there’s no milk after you poured yourself some cereal. Annoying, yes, but hardly a tragedy.
Let’s get thicker skins, shall we?